What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease (also known as Lyme borelliosis) is a bacterial infection (Borrelia Burgdorferi) that happens when an infected tick bites you.
The majority of people have a very mild infection however it can become a very serious illness.
Ticks are tiny, spider-like creatures that are found in wooded grassy areas.
They are also found in some animals, such as field mice,deer and even sheep and horses.
The ticks feed by biting and then they attach to the skin, sucking blood from animals . It is when they feed on an infected animal the ticks can pass on the infection.
If the infected tick attaches for a long period of time,( 24 hours) humans are more likely to get the disease.
Most people are asymptomatic. A rash can be seen in the majority of infected people up to about a month after the bite ( Target lesion). Flu like symptoms can occur and rarely systemic involvement such as joints( swelling and pain over several years ), nerves (meningitis,encephalitis numbness and weakness)and heart( myocarditis ,inflammation of heart muscle).
Diagnosing Lyme disease
Lyme disease is diagnosed by a detailed medical history and physical examination. It can be difficult if there has been no rash (Erythema Migrans) and therefore blood tests will have to be performed.
Doxycycline or amoxicillin ( antibiotics) are generally prescribed for a few weeks and are excellent at clearing the rash in order to prevent the development of complications. If the symptoms are severe as in organ involvement the affected person will have to be admitted to hospital.
Is there a vaccine available?
There is no vaccine available against human Lyme disease in Ireland.
The best protection is to protect yourself against tick bites when walking,hiking.Make sure arms and legs are covered and tucked into socks and spray insect repellants and not forgetting the neck area.
Inspect skin and clothing for ticks frequently.Check children's skin for attached ticks, not forgetting creases and folds such as armpits during and after the hike..
If a tick is seen, remove the entire tick as soon at possible,probably best with a tweezers. Treat if there is inflammation at the site and if any unusual rashes or flu like symptoms occur liase with your GP.